The purpose of this study was to examine how elderspeak is perceived by Korean health professionals at a university hospital, and to assess the variables that may evoke its use. Elderspeak is an overaccommodative, baby-talk-like speech, mainly used by younger speakers in intergenerational interactions. Using a questionnaire survey with 144 health professionals, we found that elderspeak is viewed as generally inappropriate. Participants only consider it mildly appropriate when addressing older patients (over age 70), who demonstrate age-related cues, such as cognitive impairments, consistent with the Communication Predicament of Aging model. We also found that non-age-related features, such as limited education, less prestigious professional background, and visible disabilities, are salient in judging the appropriateness of elderspeak in Korea. Situational and relational characteristics of the interactions between health professionals and patients did not affect participants’ assessments of elderspeak. However, the answers to the open-ended questions indicated that the use of elderspeak is frequently observed both in and outside a hospital setting, implying that in many cases speakers are expressing positive feeling towards elder patients.
- Accommodative communication
- Communicative predicament of aging
- Intergenerational communication